SEC Teams Looking To Become Bowl Eligible

Although the Auburn Tigers have the weekend off from competition, there are other games scheduled across the league. The following are previews of week 10 of the Southeastern Conference season.

Arkansas (3-4, 1-3) at South Carolina (5-3, 3-3)

11:30 a.m. CST, JP Sports / ESPN GamePlan

This has the potential to be an exciting football game as each team matches its strength vs. strength and weakness vs. weakness. Arkansas has the stronger offense and South Carolina has been the better defensive team this season. Both teams should come out ready to play hard in this SEC West vs. SEC East contest.

There's a lot on the line as postseason hopes may hinge on this game. For the Gamecocks, their annual showdowns with Florida and Clemson, which they typically lose, are in the upcoming weeks and they don't want to get stuck on five wins for the third consecutive season. The Piggies must win three of four against South Carolina, Ole Miss, at Mississippi State and LSU to reach postseason so there is little margin for error.

Arkansas is coming off a bye week, and its backfield trio of Matt Jones, Peyton Hillis and Decori Birmingham should finally be healthy for the first time since September. South Carolina quarterbacks Dondrial Pinkins and Syvelle Newton should be healthier, too. This game will be fun to watch, as Houston Nutt and Lou Holtz will probably pull all the stops in this must-win game.

Georgia (7-1, 5-1) at Kentucky (1-7, 0-5)

11:30 a.m. CST, JP Sports / ESPN GamePlan

Kentucky's loss to Mississippi State last week all but assured the Wildcats the title of the SEC's worst team in 2004. Georgia has a pretty big football game to play next week, and it's highly unlikely that Mark Richt and the rest of the Bulldogs' staff focused entirely on the Wildcats this week.

With a W in Lexington a given, Georgia just needs to come out of this game healthy before turning its full attention to the Auburn game.

Florida (4-4, 2-4) at Vanderbilt (2-6, 1-4)

1 p.m., No television

Florida began the season ranked 10th in the coaches poll and 11th in the AP Poll. The Gators, who had beaten LSU and Georgia in 2003, were looking to get back to Atlanta for the first time since 2000 after sharing the eastern division crown last year.

Vanderbilt was predicted to have its best season in years with 21 starters returning from last year's ball club. Commodore supporters were actually talking about bowl hopes for the first time since the early 1980s.

A combined 10 losses and a fired coach later, neither team has much to play for this week. Vanderbilt can't even get people to come out and watch them play. The Gators gave all they had against Georgia last week and still came up empty so what do they have to play for now? After 11 straight January bowl games, do they really have much motivation to try to earn an Independence Bowl berth?

Florida has won the last 13 in the series, and unless the Gators play like they did in Starkville two weeks ago, the streak should extend to 14. More importantly, Jeff Tedford and Urban Meyer are looking like better hires every week.

Notre Dame (5-3) at Tennessee (7-1, 5-1)

2:30 p.m. CST, CBS Sports

This battle of two of the more historic programs in college football usually turns out to be a classic. They have two of the better fight songs in all of football, too, if you aren't already sick of them.

The Volunteers keep rolling one step closer every week to a potential rematch with Auburn in Atlanta. They haven't won an SEC game comfortably all year, and their visit to Columbia, S.C., last week was no different.

Freshman quarterback Erik Ainge will be counted on to move the football for Tennessee.

The Vols close the season with Vanderbilt and Kentucky, and a win over an average Irish team would almost guarantee a 10-1 regular season. Not bad for a team with a true freshman quarterback and an inconsistent defense.

This game also has Orange Bowl implications, indirectly. It appears that the Volunteers will play Auburn twice this year, and Notre Dame is an opponent of undefeated USC also. If Auburn wants to gain ground in BCS standings, Tennessee needs to maintain its average 5.5 ranking in the six computer polls.

Tennessee has shown its ability to win close games this year while Notre Dame has a three-point loss to BYU and a one-point loss to Boston College.

Mississippi State (3-5, 2-3) at Alabama (5-3, 2-3)

5:30 p.m., ESPN2

Croom versus Shula, Battle I. Not only are these schools geographically closer than any two in the league, there are many ties between the programs as well. Mississippi State has on its coaching staff Sylvester Croom, Ellis Johnson, Woody McCorvey and Freddie Kitchens, who each have Alabama connections. Croom still says he should have been given more consideration for the UAT coaching job during both of its openings two years ago, and would love nothing more than to upset the Tide Saturday, putting them in danger of a second consecutive losing season.

There's no question that the Bulldogs have improved throughout the year, but after losing to Maine and Vanderbilt, up is the only place to go. They're looking to make it three straight SEC wins, but they haven't won a road game in more than three years.

State was able to out-physical Florida and Kentucky in recent weeks, but that will be a tough task Saturday night in Tuscaloosa. Alabama has statistically the top rushing attack in the league, and one of the better defenses as well. The Tide should be able to play its normal physical football and get that sixth win to become bowl eligible before closing the season with LSU and Auburn.


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